Curtis Samuel Ready for Breakout Year in 2015

By Michael Citro on March 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

Slight of frame for a running back, at his listed size of 5-foot-11 and 196 pounds, Curtis Samuel doesn’t exactly cut the same kind of figure as Carlos Hyde, Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith, or other recent Ohio State runners. Nevertheless, the talented sophomore-to-be out of Brooklyn, NY, has a bright future in the Buckeye backfield.

It’s hard to believe after the three postseason games the Buckeyes played, but many people thought Samuel to be Ohio State’s best running back in the early days of the 2014 season. That was before the Slobs had coalesced into the destructive paving machine they eventually became. The running game took a few weeks to get going, but eventually Ezekiel Elliott showed he was something special and became the favorite to win next year’s Heisman Trophy.

Meanwhile, Samuel put up a very respectable 383 rushing yards as a true freshman, finishing second on the team in yards per carry (6.6 to Elliott’s 6.9) among rushers with at least 10 carries. He carved up Kent State for 100 yards on just 15 carries to lead all Buckeyes in rushing in a 66-0 beat-down of the Golden Flashes back in September.

Only Elliott (18) and J.T. Barrett (11) ran for more touchdowns than Samuel’s six.

Like his namesake, Curtis Mayfield, Samuel is Superfly. [Obligatory intermission.]

[You’re welcome. Carry on.]

The 17th member of Ohio State’s 2014 class, Samuel was the Gatorade Player of the Year in New York his senior season at Erasmus Hall. Curtis was a consensus four-star recruit and was listed among the nation’s top 100 prospects by 247Sports (46), Rivals (49) and Scout (60). ESPN had him at 153 because ESPN, but regardless, Samuel was considered one of the best recruits in Ohio State’s class.

He produced 1,461 rushing yards (15.8 YPA) and 17 touchdowns his senior season.

And he arrived in Columbus early. Curtis enrolled in January of 2014 and eventually stole Urban Meyer’s heart in spring ball. He and Raekwon McMillan were the first two Buckeye freshmen in fall camp to have their black stripes removed, which happened on August 10. He began the championship season third on the depth chart at running back, behind Elliott and Rod Smith.

Samuel officially became second on the depth chart with Smith’s dismissal in October, but in reality he was already ahead of the senior in all but title.

Embarking on his second season with the Buckeyes, Samuel will start the season as a solid number two option for Urban Meyer behind Elliott. To keep the latter fresh throughout the season, look for more carries for Curtis. I would expect him to more than double his 58 carries of 2014 during the upcoming title defense repeat season.

With at least double the carries and a year of experience under his belt, plus the return of four fifths of the Slobs, this could be a 1,000-yard season for Samuel. And any kind of building upon his 6.6 yards-per-carry average will help him to put up garish numbers and more runs like this.

If another off-season in Mickey Marotti’s strength and conditioning program bears fruit, Samuel will add quite a bit of power to his arsenal to go along with the quickness he already possesses. That would give Ohio State perhaps the nation’s best one-two punch out of the backfield in Elliott and Samuel.

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